FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

‘Active’ Management Wrong Answer Trying to Stop Big Wildfires

With the Taylor and Klondike fires in southern Oregon growing, there are continuous comments, including from Congressman Walden and our Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, that if we only did “active” forest management these kinds of blazes could be reduced in size or even precluded.

The science does not support such assertions. Rather climate/weather drives all large fires, not fuels. Of course, one needs some fuels for an ignition, but what happens after ignition depends on the prevailing weather conditions. If you have drought, high temperatures, low humidity and in particular, wind, you have the recipe for large and unstoppable blazes — at least until the weather changes.

For instance, a great deal of research supports the notion that fuel treatments are largely ineffective under extreme weather conditions. Here are some research findings.

A 2005 paper concluded that “fuel treatments…cannot realistically be expected to eliminate large area burned in severe fire weather years.”

A paper written by fire scientists at the Missoula Fire Lab opined “Extreme environmental conditions…overwhelmed most fuel treatment effects…This included almost all treatment methods including prescribed burning and thinning…Suppression efforts had little benefit from fuel modifications.”

These findings were verified by another more recent review study that looked at 1,500 fires and fire severity reported: “We found forests with higher levels of protection had lower severity values even though they are generally identified as having the highest overall levels of biomass and fuel.”

Another study conducted in the California Klamath region found that the most fire-suppressed forests in this area (areas that had not burned since at least 1920) burned at significantly lower severity levels.”

They went on to conclude. “The hypothesis that fire severity is greater where previous fire has been long absent was refuted by our study…The amount of high-severity fire in long-unburned closed forests was the lowest of any proportion of the landscape and differed from that in the landscape as a whole.”

A 2018 study found that actively managed forests experienced greater fire severity than forests with less management. In particular, concluded that Intensively managed private forestlands tended to burn with greater severity than older state and federal forests.

Another study of forests east of the Cascades that included the Deschutes National Forest found: “In general, rate of spread and flame length was positively correlated with the proportion of area logged (hereafter, area logged) for the sample watersheds.”

The authors concluded, “All harvest techniques were associated with increased rate of spread and flame length.”

There are numerous ecological costs associated with logging that are seldom considered or only given lip service. These include spread of weeds, sedimentation into streams, soil compaction, disruption of nutrient flows, loss of wildlife habitat, loss of carbon storage, and disturbance of sensitive wildlife.

A reduction in the flammability in the immediate area of the home is more reliable and cost-effective than trying to fire-proof the forest through thinning operations.

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail